The Goldfinch (3 stars)

The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt's celebrated novel is the basis of a faithful but frustrating adaptation from John Crowley

Bringing The Goldfinch to the screen has clearly been a labour of love for Brooklyn director John Crowley. His film is meticulously crafted and scrupulously faithful to the source material but, for all his tender care, it never manages to touch the heart.

Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was a sprawling beast of a book, Dickensian in the sweep and swirl of consequences that flowed from one defining day. Peter Straughan's screenplay strives to include as much of the story and intrigue as possible but, even with an epic running time, the film starts to feel like a meandering series of incidents without a great emotional connecting tissue.

Told in flashbacks from a wintry Amsterdam, The Goldfinch does boast a standout performance from Oakes Fegley as the young Theodore Decker. Sporting Harry Potter glasses and a permanently furrowed brow, he provides the sympathetic heart of the labyrinthine tale. During a childhood trip to New York's Metropolitan Museum, a bomb blast kills Theo's mother and leaves him at the mercy of strangers. In the chaos that follows, he steals the priceless 17th century oil painting that gives the film its title.

The painting becomes a treasured possession as Theo seesaws between euphoria and dejection. His hopes soar when he is given sanctuary by the kindly Mrs Barbour (Nicole Kidman) and an affluent Manhattan family. His fortunes change when his feckless father Larry (Luke Wilson) arrives to carry him off to a very different life in Las Vegas. Connections are made and friendships are severed as the adult Theo (Ansel Elgort) is propelled towards a date with destiny in Amsterdam.

There are many pleasures in The Goldfinch – from the golden sheen of Roger Deakins' cinematography to an eye-catching turn from Finn Wolfhard as Theo's incorrigible pal Boris – but it never quite becomes the sum of its beautiful, languid parts.

General release from Fri 27 Sep.

The Goldfinch

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 2h 29min
  • 15
  • Directed by: John Crowley
  • Cast: Oakes Fegley, Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman

When Theodore (Fegley)’s mother is killed during a childhood trip to New York’s Metropolitan Museum, he steals a priceless 17th century oil painting. This adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning novel is meticulously crafted and faithful but meandering, and for all its pleasures it never becomes the sum of its parts.